How we can address gender bias in the tech industry
Empowering Women and Girls Three senior women from Royal Mail give us their advice on how the technology sector can attract more young women. And, once there, how can their talents be retained?
Talent Pipeline Manager, Royal Mail Group
Organisations must do more to collaborate with schools and colleges.
That way they can engage with young people choosing their GCSEs and share stories about women who have developed rewarding careers in the industry. There's a real need to challenge the tech stereotype and show children - particularly those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds - that you can be successful, whatever your skin colour or gender.
Girls and young women need to be made more aware of the value of apprenticeships.
Organisations and training providers have to engage with young people — and their parents/guardians — to demonstrate that an apprenticeship is a viable alternative to university. Young women need to know that if they don't have the right qualifications, there are still opportunities for them to study and earn whilst they learn.
Organisations need to stop penalising women for having families.
I think this happens in all industries, not just tech. These days, women won't stay in an organisation that isn't inclusive, so a business needs to encourage flexible working patterns like job-shares and create opportunities for promotion for those who are not in full-time roles, at all levels/grades. Returning women should be given positive, proactive support with regards to learning and development, particularly in tech, which is a fast-moving sector. The entire culture of the organisation has to be on board with this — and that starts with the leadership.
If you're interested in entering the tech industry, my advice would be to find a role model.
There are senior people who can share their experiences with you and encourage you to succeed. Our technology executive population is currently at 57 per cent for female employees.
Enterprise Information Architect , Royal Mail Group
I'm a big believer in mentorship schemes.
I've had female and male mentors who have given me one-to-one coaching. This is useful because, firstly, it's not part of your day-to-job; secondly, it can help you identify parts of your character that you should be bringing to the fore. I'm also an advocate for women's networks. I'm part of one, and it's a space where you can share knowledge and ask questions about your career with people who've had similar experiences.
Flexibility in the workplace is vital if companies want to retain talent.
That applies to both sexes. We are all working longer, and we don't want to burn out, so I think employees should be able to take a sabbatical if they want them. To work for 60 or 70 years is asking a lot of us all!
There is unconscious bias towards men in the tech industry.
Perhaps more organisations need to adopt a 'blind' CV policy to help achieve parity in recruitment: i.e., introducing CVs with names and school details removed.
Apprenticeship Programme Manager, Royal Mail Group
We need to improve career guidance in schools to help young women make more informed choices.
If we want young women and girls to develop an ambition to work in the industry, they need to understand the incredible breadth of roles within technology and how these can become career pathways. One way to do that is with female tech role models who go into schools as young ambassadors to promote the industry and break down gender barriers.
STEM subjects taught in schools are still seen as 'masculine'.
It's often assumed that, when choosing their options, boys will take engineering and girls will take food technology, which is a gender stereotype we need to get away from in this day and age. Schools can help change that perception by celebrating women in STEM subjects and talking about the career paths of past students who have gone on to be world-class engineers or tech leaders.
Companies need to make a conscious effort to attract females into the industry.
They can help that process by, for example, updating their careers websites and using social media to show more women in post, and have video interviews with women about why they love what they are doing, what difference they are making and what a job in tech really involves. Attending careers fairs and skills shows is a great opportunity to answer questions and talk directly to future female talent.